The Cutting Edge
by Ed Knudson
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Not Much Planning in Houston  8/28/2017  (145)

Members of Trump's Religious Advisory Council Have Not Resigned  8/25/2017  (170)

Slavery, Original Sin, and Redemption: A Statement of Faith  8/21/2017  (126)

A Stampede of Charities has Canceled Planned Fundraising Events at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club  8/21/2017  (123)

Church Leaders in Charlottesville Prepared for White Supremacists  8/16/2017  (143)

White House Staffer Fired Over Memo on Cultural Marxism (or, Critical Social Theory)  8/15/2017  (148)

Trump is a Drama Queen: Weak and Sniveling; Whiny, Weepy, Self-Pitying. But Fox News Loves Him  8/11/2017  (185)

Southern Baptist Pastor Calls for Holy War against North Korea  8/9/2017  (159)

There Will Be No Wall, Says John Kelly  8/1/2017  (210)

The Misuse of Martin Luther on Predestination  7/28/2017  (197)

John McCain Gives Heroic Speech Denouncing Terrible Thing That He Just Voted For  7/26/2017  (171)

Disgusting: Trump Attacks American Institutions in Speech to Boy Scouts  7/25/2017  (173)

Philosopher Richard Rorty Predicted Election of a Racist Strongman for President  7/24/2017  (207)

Washington Post Publishes Lots of Libertarian Nonsense  7/23/2017  (200)

The Spontaneous Order of James Buchanan; No Government Necessary for This Libertarian  7/19/2017  (206)

Republicans Fail Entirely on Health Care; Trump Turns Against His Voters  7/18/2017  (193)

Trump Had Morality Hammered Out of Him by His Family History  7/14/2017  (226)

Trump, Like Others Who Follow the Russian Atheist, Ayn Rand, is in Serious Trouble  7/14/2017  (250)

Trump and the Russian Mafia  7/13/2017  (202)

Ted Cruz's Free Choice Means Death to Thousands; the Myth of Personal Responsibility  7/13/2017  (201)

Trump Didn’t Win the Working Class. The Democrats Lost It  7/8/2017  (228)

NRA Thinks White Alienated Males are Feeling Sorry for Themselves  6/30/2017  (246)

Widespread Rebukes of Trump's Blood Tweets; Calls for Retraction  6/30/2017  (215)

Peter Berger Dies. Our Knowledge is Not Our Own  6/28/2017  (280)

Not All Lutherans are the Same. Supreme Court Favors One Type Only  6/27/2017  (246)

Obamacare is a Conservative Model of Healthcare and is Failing; Now It's Time for Single Payer  6/27/2017  (259)

It's Clear Now: Putin Wanted Trump, Not Clinton  6/24/2017  (260)

Politics is a Knife Fight with No Rules, Says Grover Norquist  6/23/2017  (239)

This Should Happen All Over:  Union Ironworker Has a Plan to Beat Paul Ryan  6/21/2017  (254)

Triangulation Has Been Terribly Hurtful to Democrats  6/20/2017  (276)

Kitzhaber Exonerated; Oregonian Debases Itself Again  6/16/2017  (294)

Trump is Too Ignorant to be President; Doesn't Even Know What Christians Believe  6/16/2017  (268)

Dissent: Organizing in Red America  6/16/2017  (244)

It's the Racists Who Want Guns  6/15/2017  (333)

It Can Happen Here  6/13/2017  (286)

Surprise Victory for Social Democracy in England  6/9/2017  (265)

Before and After the Pill  6/8/2017  (289)

Dear Trump Appointees: Quit Your Jobs or Lose Your Souls  6/6/2017  (297)

Americans, Hang Your Heads in Shame  6/1/2017  (327)

Montana Republican So Afraid of the Press that He Attacks Reporter  5/26/2017  (324)

James Comey: The Fall of a Niebuhrian  5/15/2017  (325)

Management by Terror: Stalin and Trump  5/10/2017  (383)

The Cynical Use of Abortion by Politicians  5/6/2017  (353)

NCC Urges Churches to Refrain From Intervening in Political Campaigns  5/4/2017  (357)

Where Your Tax Dollar Goes  4/18/2017  (393)

Talking It Through  4/15/2017  (383)

False Community Consciousness and Local Radio  4/1/2017  (413)

Politicians Can Use Nostalgia to Manipulate the Minds and Hearts of People  3/31/2017  (405)

Two Forms of Governance: Big Corporations Want to Snoop about Your Internet Behavior  3/27/2017  (366)

Obamacare is Not Imploding, Can Be Improved  3/24/2017  (373)

The Soul-Sucking, Attention-Eating Black Hole of the Trump Presidency  3/24/2017  (364)

An Avalanche of Absurdities: Chris Hedges on the Rise of Trump and American Fascism  3/21/2017  (354)

Of Course Obama Wiretapped Trump  3/21/2017  (376)

Trump Glorifies American Militarism with German Leader, Embarrassing Himself  3/18/2017  (339)

Most of Trump's Voters are Not Poor, but Regular Old Republicans  3/18/2017  (346)

Robert Mercer and Big Money Chose Trump to be President, not the People  3/17/2017  (434)

Stirring Up Muslim Hatred; The Need for a New Election  3/16/2017  (333)

Old Republican Tactic: Stoke Fear of Crime  3/13/2017  (444)

White People are Hurting Themselves  3/11/2017  (443)

Basic Civics Lesson for Libertarians  3/8/2017  (413)

Public Trust: Post-truth is Pre-fascim  3/8/2017  (495)

Martin Marty Center Publishes Column in Support of Disgraced White Nationalist, Milo Yiannopoulos  2/28/2017  (561)

Trump is Not a Normal Politician and Was Not Elected Fair and Square  2/21/2017  (819)

Trump is Using Immigrants as a Political Scapegoat: Very Bad  2/20/2017  (523)

To Dominate Politics, Business Needs Religious Extremism  2/13/2017  (514)

No Vision or Leadership from National Council of Churches  2/9/2017  (489)

Post-Factual Politics  2/8/2017  (516)

Trump May Want a Terrorist Attack  2/7/2017  (564)

For the Right Wing: Only Christians Deserve Religious Freedom  2/6/2017  (406)

Where Are the Reverends in Justice Movements?  2/3/2017  (534)

Trump is Centralizing Power: Resist Fascism  1/30/2017  (622)

Cry for Our Country: Spontaneous Demonstrations across America  1/28/2017  (533)

Truth in the Trump Era  1/23/2017  (526)

"We Will Not Go Away, Welcome to Your First Day"  1/21/2017  (586)

Violence, Racism, Authoritarianism Characterize Trump's Inaugural Speech  1/21/2017  (663)

First Things Doesn't Like that Trump Surrounds Himself with Prosperity Gospelers, Snake Oil Salesmen  1/17/2017  (590)

Newt Gingrich Gets Trump Wrong: Why Southerners Hate the Federal Government  12/27/2016  (580)

From Peace on Earth to an Election Based on Violence  12/23/2016  (568)

Bill O'Reilly Admits the Truth: For Republicans Elections are All about Race  12/23/2016  (640)

No Mandate for Trump, Says Jeff Merkley  12/22/2016  (636)

2010 Prediction: White People with Self-destructive Fantasies will Elect a Figure Like Trump  12/17/2016  (575)

Gore Vidal on Ayn Rand: God is "I"  12/14/2016  (593)

Russian Atheistic Ideas Now Dominate the American Political System  12/14/2016  (468)

Trump Over Performed the Most in Counties with the Highest Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Mortality Rates  12/9/2016  (472)

Back to the Catacombs for the Real Church  12/8/2016  (608)

A Prayer for Standing Rock  11/12/2016  (543)

Trump Will Be Impeached within a Year  11/11/2016  (651)

David Brooks on the Authoritarian Anti-Politics of Trump  11/10/2016  (566)

An Anti-Trump Resistance Movement Begins with Protesters in Streets Nationwide  11/10/2016  (558)

Hillary Lost Because of Her Husband's Economic Policies  11/9/2016  (668)

Evangelicals Elect a Racist Pervert as President  11/9/2016  (563)

Very Serious National Decline  11/9/2016  (584)

The Silly Controversy about Hillary's Emails  11/7/2016  (600)

Trump Offers to Rescue Lower Income White People in a Secular Rapture  11/2/2016  (554)

The Crisis of Conservative Intellectuals  11/1/2016  (606)

James Comey Should Resign or Be Fired  10/30/2016  (587)

Traveling Luther's Life 500 Years Later  10/24/2016  (589)

The Death of Tom Hayden  10/24/2016  (648)

False Superiority Syndrome: A Terrible Disease of the European White Mind  7/22/2016  (1005)

Delusion: Ben Carson Thinks Saul Alinsky Worshipped the Devil  7/20/2016  (728)

Understanding the Context for Preaching  7/16/2016  (666)

Journalists Must Treat Trump Differently  7/15/2016  (722)

Reading Grace in History through a Black Lens  6/26/2016  (729)

A Dark Day for the UK  6/24/2016  (675)

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Has Got to Go to Unite Democrats Against the Racist, Trump  5/27/2016  (796)

John Caputo On Divine Sovereignty and the Weakness of God  5/23/2016  (757)

A Corrupt Form of Christianity is Destroying the Republican Party  4/5/2016  (874)

President Obama: 'We are Easter People'  3/31/2016  (812)

Evangelicals are Not Voting Trump, Jacksonians Are  3/31/2016  (771)

The Modern War on Drugs Began as Nixon's Racist Assault on Black People  3/24/2016  (828)

Listen to a Black Man Standing Silently at a Trump Rally  3/15/2016  (838)

Who Should be President? Strict Father or Nurturing Parent  3/3/2016  (876)

Trump is a Fraud Who is Playing the American People as Suckers, Says Romney  3/3/2016  (904)

Asked about Donald Trump's Wall, Pope Francis Suggests He 'Is Not Christian'  2/18/2016  (871)

How the Portland Media Help Make Domestic Terrorists into Heroes  2/6/2016  (848)

Flint, Michigan: Death Camp City  1/22/2016  (865)

Privatization of Public Land is a Bad Idea  1/22/2016  (959)

Peace Lutheran in Burns, Oregon, Requests Prayers  1/20/2016  (964)

How the Iraq War Created ISIS: Crucial Information for Understanding Terrorism  12/6/2015  (951)

Leading Republican Candidate Donald Trump: How Stupid are the People of Iowa?  11/13/2015  (962)

CNN Repeats Stupid Claim by Pew Research that Religious 'Nones' Dominate Democratic Party  11/5/2015  (952)

First Things has become Relevant to Only One Region of the Country: the South  11/2/2015  (992)

Tell Ben Carson to Give Up His Presidential Campaign  10/27/2015  (957)

Corporate-Funded Think Tanks have Created an Angry, Destructive Politics  10/24/2015  (948)

Protestants Need a Pope  9/30/2015  (1017)

R.R. Reno at First Things is Disappointed by Pope Francis  9/25/2015  (1029)

Matt Taibbi on the GOP Clown Car  8/15/2015  (1156)

Pray to be Filled with Awe and Contemplation  8/12/2015  (1032)

Jurgen Habermas: A New Possibility for Europe  7/21/2015  (1190)

The Republican Party has become an Agent of Southern Religion, Racism and Anti-Unionism  7/20/2015  (1010)

Historic Day: Gay Marriage Affirmed by Supreme Court in All 50 States  6/26/2015  (1107)

Gun Manufacturers Cannot Be Christian says Pope Francis  6/22/2015  (1115)

Pope Francis Teaches Us about Climate Change and the Moral Imperative to Act  6/20/2015  (1138)

Cornel West Wows a Conservative University Audience  5/4/2015  (1392)

Police Violence in Baltimore  4/29/2015  (1344)

Bonhoeffer's Vision: An Outcast Church on the Margins of Society  4/25/2015  (1216)

The Debate Over Cornel West  4/21/2015  (1268)

Nebraska Doesn't Believe in the Free Market for Its Electricity  3/29/2015  (1290)

The New Political Mission of the Historic Protestant Church  3/16/2015  (1320)

When Fascism Comes to America; What Love of Country Really Means  3/1/2015  (1317)

Senators Marco Rubio and Joni Ernst Don't Know the Difference between Sunni and Shia Islam  2/28/2015  (2014)

The Shameful Media Attack on John Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes  2/18/2015  (1802)

Francis Says God Loves the Marginalized  2/16/2015  (1240)

Rand Paul Disqualifies Himself  2/4/2015  (1381)

Oxfam Report: How the Wealthy Get Their Money by Not Working or Paying Taxes  1/26/2015  (1286)

John Boehner Wants The U.S. to go to War with Iran  1/21/2015  (1322)

Martin Luther on Charlie Hebdo: Sick Secularism and Billy Graham  1/14/2015  (3422)

Whose Speech is Actually Free?  1/14/2015  (1342)

Historic Protestant Speech is Not Free in America Today  1/14/2015  (1524)

Wall Street has Bought Itself a Congress  12/15/2014  (1309)

Democrats Move to Encourage an Elizabeth Warren Candidancy  12/10/2014  (1350)

Iowa Lutherans: Don't Vote for Joni Ernst  10/27/2014  (2820)

Wendell Berry and Incarnational Theology  10/21/2014  (1552)

Did God Kill Jesus? Moltmann on Anticipated Terror and Joy  10/10/2014  (1573)

Stop the Oil Train Bombs  10/2/2014  (1590)

The Terrible Self-Righteousness of George Weigel at First Things  9/19/2014  (1509)

Violence All Across the World, including Ferguson, Missouri  8/15/2014  (1622)

Reagan's View of History Still Prevails  8/15/2014  (1481)

Nick Hanauer: Beware, Fellow Plutocrats, the Pitchforks are Coming  8/13/2014  (1554)

Blowing Up Jonah: The Political Use of Religious Symbols  8/12/2014  (1698)

Listen to Rabbi Henry Siegman on Gaza: Killing Innocents  8/1/2014  (1489)

The Lost Iraq War  7/30/2014  (1447)

It is Not Anti-Semitic to Question Israel's Right to Exist as an Ethnic State   7/24/2014  (1501)

Republicans Elect Mark Walker: A Racist, Blasphemous, Baptist Pastor  7/23/2014  (1950)

There is No Religious Left  7/22/2014  (1504)

Crisis in Ukraine: A Bit of Background  7/18/2014  (1433)

Teachers Turn Against Obama  7/12/2014  (1637)

The Trouble With Brain Science  7/12/2014  (1513)

The Roman Catholic Supreme Court Decides What is 'Sincere' Religious Belief   7/1/2014  (1590)

Karl Polanyi and the Stark Utopianism of Market Fundamentalism  7/1/2014  (1549)

Corporate Provided Health Care Has To Go  6/30/2014  (1476)

Brookings Report on Economic Justice and the Future of Religious Progressives  4/25/2014  (1599)

Coal Train Crisis Abates   4/16/2014  (1621)

Gay Marriage Ban Ending in England and Wales on Saturday  3/29/2014  (1646)

Obama Should Have Prosecuted the Bush Administration for War Crimes  3/28/2014  (1602)

A False Gospel: Corporate Christianity  3/27/2014  (1623)

Koch Brothers are Creating Their Own Political Party  1/26/2014  (1774)

Social Justice in New York City  1/1/2014  (1814)

God is a God of Freedom: Pope Francis and Liberation Theology  12/21/2013  (1808)

America, America, the Country that Kills Its Prophets  11/23/2013  (1925)

Thinking about a New Protestantism  11/21/2013  (1826)

Hysterical Anti-Communism: Billy Graham Urged the Killing of a Million Vietnamese  11/21/2013  (2767)

The Next President will be a Woman and a Methodist, but not Hillary  11/11/2013  (1806)

Regular Republicans are Beginning to Reject Their Leaders  11/11/2013  (1730)

Pastors: Help Your People Understand Obamacare  11/6/2013  (1853)

Mothers and Grandmothers on Abortion  11/5/2013  (1959)

Why Obamacare is a Political Con Job  10/30/2013  (1992)

Very Disturbing Governance by Media Manipulation  10/4/2013  (2036)

A Reformation Pope  10/2/2013  (1906)

When the Big Money Mafia Rule  10/1/2013  (1967)

Obama Wins Shutdown Battle  10/1/2013  (2139)

Samantha Power: Protection of the Innocent  9/11/2013  (2125)

Pope Francis to Meet with Gustavo Gutierrez, Founder of Liberation Theology  9/11/2013  (2121)

Apocalypse: Life Beyond Empire and Environmental Destruction  9/9/2013  (1952)

Joining Obama Against Himself?  9/5/2013  (2126)

Arab Spring: Transfer of Power in Syria  9/4/2013  (2033)

Religious Conflict in the History of Syria  9/3/2013  (2034)

Hunger Games: The Divide and Conquer Marketing Strategy of Fox News  8/7/2013  (2270)

The Terrible Mendacity of Stanley Kurtz  8/5/2013  (2499)

Obama Speaks on Verdict in Trayvon Martin Case  7/19/2013  (2008)

Summer Heat: Elders Called to Engage in Civil Disobedience  7/18/2013  (2067)

Business Predators Must Be Forced to Stop Their Damaging Behavior  5/26/2013  (2232)

Pastors Create Public Consciousness  5/26/2013  (2179)

Kathyrn Tanner: The Social Trinity and Politics  5/26/2013  (2250)

Obama Failed to Appoint Competent IRS Leaders  5/22/2013  (2354)

Occupy Theology: Obama has Broken the Hearts of the Young  5/20/2013  (1995)

Corporate Conspiracy Theories in Pastoral Consciousness  5/17/2013  (2213)

The Gosnell Verdict and Abortion Politics  5/16/2013  (2556)

False Equivalence, the IRS, and the Right's Persecution Complex  5/15/2013  (2227)

The NRA: Southern Political Terrorism  5/14/2013  (2155)

Public Violence  4/17/2013  (1984)

A Teacher is Raised  4/8/2013  (2108)

Stop Coal Exports  3/27/2013  (2164)

Health Care Hogs Drive Up Costs  3/27/2013  (2003)

Manufactured Landscapes  3/23/2013  (2138)

About Death Camp Thinking  3/22/2013  (2138)

Marriage Equality Goes Mainstream  3/21/2013  (2151)

Hope for the New Pope  3/14/2013  (2254)

The End of a Catholic Moment  3/12/2013  (2160)

Wealth Inequality is Much Worse than Most People Believe   3/11/2013  (2160)

The Government is Making Us Old  3/11/2013  (2375)

Fairness Now Means to Tax the Rich More  12/10/2012  (2255)

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:THE NEW JIM CROW  11/14/2012  (2374)

A Victory for Life  11/7/2012  (2083)

Romney is Not a Christian  11/5/2012  (2334)

It's Not Theology that is Utopian Today, It's the Market Fundamentalists Like Romney  10/17/2012  (2688)

Why Does Romney Focus So Much On Apology?  9/12/2012  (2266)

A Way of Speaking that Wins Elections  9/6/2012  (2190)

Compared to Other Nations, America is Under-Taxed and More Unequal  8/31/2012  (2203)

Obedience, Not Liberty, is Highest Value for Real Conservatives  8/28/2012  (2310)

Romney Degrades Himself with Welfare Ad  8/28/2012  (2263)

Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All  8/3/2012  (2329)

Michele Bachmann: Say Stupid Things, Make Lots of Money  8/1/2012  (2216)

The Trees are Falling  7/14/2012  (2470)

President's Social Darwinism Comment Stirs Up Business Elite  4/16/2012  (2330)

Today is My Last Day at Goldman Sachs  3/14/2012  (2351)

Creation is Broken: Against Utopian Conservatives  3/9/2012  (2358)

Women have Spoken: The End of Rush Limbaugh  3/9/2012  (2344)

Nazism and Public Schools: Catholic Bishops Want Public Money for Their Own Schools  2/25/2012  (2825)

The Cynical Use of Religion by Economic Elites  2/23/2012  (2842)

The Continuing Attack by Religious Right against Mainline Christianity  2/22/2012  (2558)

A Phony Public Theology  2/22/2012  (2331)

Naming the Enemy: Biological Fundamentalism  2/17/2012  (2322)

Social Policy in Pastoral Consciousness: Who Should Serve the 'Poor'?  2/16/2012  (2408)

Bishops Reject Obama Compromise, the Devil is Forcing Birth Control  2/14/2012  (2394)

Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It  2/13/2012  (2361)

Romney Believes Constitution is Divine  2/11/2012  (2423)

Santorum Reveals His Political Philosophy with Comment on French Revolution  2/10/2012  (5010)

Legal Aspects of the Contraception Debate  2/9/2012  (2403)

Catholic Bishops Want Freedom to Oppress Women  2/8/2012  (2855)

David Stockman on Crony Capitalism, A Very Helpful Discussion  1/26/2012  (4865)

Wall Street to be Investigated  1/25/2012  (2748)

Obama Tells Truth about Economy  12/7/2011  (2378)

God Demands Justice  11/17/2011  (2391)

Understanding Protest Movements  11/15/2011  (2299)

Chris Hedges: People Have Finally Woken Up  10/8/2011  (2355)

A New Economic Strategy for Wall Street Protests  10/5/2011  (2442)

Wall Street Occupation Protest - Live Video  9/26/2011  (2429)

Tens of Thousands Protest in Israel; Citizens of the USA Should Also Hit the Streets  8/7/2011  (2447)

A Day of Blasphemy: Governor Rick Perry's Prayer Festival  8/5/2011  (2671)

Wall Street Hates the Tea Party  8/4/2011  (2474)

The Instability of the American Political System  7/27/2011  (2570)

Fukuyama on The Origins of Political Order  4/15/2011  (2511)

Obama Punches Back  4/13/2011  (2636)

Punish the Poor  4/9/2011  (2719)

Facing the Reality of Conflict and the Problem with Liberal Neutrality  3/21/2011  (2649)

The Republican Attack on Poor Women  2/20/2011  (2602)

A Real Spirit of Peace  2/11/2011  (2516)

Public Lies about Tax Cuts  2/10/2011  (2598)

The People Own the Streets  2/2/2011  (2634)

Political Violence Works  1/13/2011  (2744)

Religion as a Matter of Political Calculation  12/24/2010  (2828)

Tea Party Leader Says Methodist Church is the Religious Arm of Socialism   12/20/2010  (2902)

Bottom-up History: The Commoners of Atwood  12/13/2010  (2634)

Patriotic Millionaires Support Increase in Their OwnTaxes  12/10/2010  (2706)

Democrats Elected a Republican President  12/9/2010  (2655)

Obama Agrees to Increase Obscene Levels of Inequality  12/9/2010  (2511)

The Unemployed are Actual, Real People  12/3/2010  (2736)

A Deep Sense of Bewilderment and Betrayal  12/2/2010  (2754)

Chalmers Johnson Dies, Military Writer Who Told the Truth  11/21/2010  (2687)

Should the Rich Rule?  11/3/2010  (2577)

The Liberation Theology of Abraham Lincoln  10/12/2010  (2794)

Mass Psychosis as a Pastoral Concern  9/24/2010  (2783)

Glenn Beck and Apostolic Authority  8/31/2010  (2661)

A Moving Event  7/19/2010  (2582)

Gay Marriage to Become Law of the Land  6/21/2010  (2659)

Facing Death at the Center of Life  6/14/2010  (2724)

Rand Paul Exposes Tea Party Racism in Libertarianism  5/20/2010  (2814)

Equal Freedom: The Obama Doctrine  5/7/2010  (2988)

The Last Protestant is Leaving  4/9/2010  (2741)

Economics in Pastoral Consciousness  3/14/2010  (2879)

The Strategic Consciousness of the Protestant Pastor  3/1/2010  (2777)

Memesis and the Culture of Personal Crisis  2/15/2010  (3016)

Watch Out for that Communist Folk Music  1/22/2010  (2956)

The Political Cross at Xmas  12/23/2009  (2872)

There are Socialists and Communists in the White House  10/15/2009  (3642)

Send Money to ACORN Now!  9/19/2009  (3295)

The Moral Blindness of Glenn Beck  8/11/2009  (3373)

The Media Creation of Whacko Conservatism  7/30/2009  (3222)

Seven Pentecostal Mountains and Sarah Palin  7/16/2009  (3371)

Major Media Unfairly Presents Anti-Abortion Rhetoric  6/3/2009  (3343)

You Can Get Killed in a Public Church  6/2/2009  (3475)

Historical Jesus Theories: Bringing on the Reign of God  5/20/2009  (3749)

It's Not Socialism, It's Insanity  5/20/2009  (3282)

When Life Begins is Not at all Clear  5/19/2009  (3547)

The Political Use of Torture  4/25/2009  (3283)

Jesus is Not Some Phony Spook  4/22/2009  (3234)

Poisoned Waters, Chicken Shit and Smart Growth  4/21/2009  (3434)

The Significance of the Killing of Robert F. Kennedy  4/13/2009  (3455)

The Last Book by Neuhaus: America is Babylon  4/10/2009  (3644)

About the New Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships  4/9/2009  (3371)

Seeing the Truth about God and Economy  4/2/2009  (3560)

Big Bankers as Terrorists  3/23/2009  (3569)

Without Trust, No Economy  3/19/2009  (3358)

Exposing the Dual Structure of American Governance  3/19/2009  (3274)

Another Big Book on Justice  3/17/2009  (3303)

Why Pastors Need to Understand Rush Limbaugh  3/16/2009  (3400)

The Freeman Affair and the Israel Lobby  3/16/2009  (3407)

Uncreative Destruction  3/16/2009  (3464)

Some Truth about Income Tax Rates  3/13/2009  (3715)

Cultural Redemption: The Jewish-Arab Peace Song  3/13/2009  (3695)

The Poor Reputation of Evangelicals around the World  3/13/2009  (3504)

They have Stolen Our Language  3/11/2009  (3485)

CNBC: Mouthpiece for Business Ideology  3/11/2009  (3256)

Why Habermas?  3/11/2009  (3351)

Sex in God's Family  3/8/2009  (3605)


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Obama Failed to Appoint Competent IRS Leaders
5/22/2013

Last night I watched on C-Span a hearing on the IRS debate of the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Max Baucus (D, Montana). It became clear to me that President Obama has again failed to appoint people to high positions who represent his own policy orientations, and has, instead, tried to avoid controversy by keeping in place previous appointees of George W. Bush. In his effort to nearly always appeal to the other side, rather than act on the basis of his own core convictions, Obama has allowed a controversy to develop that is framed in the worst possible way for his own policy preferences or for the good of the Democratic Party which he should be representing since he was elected by Democrats who rightly expect him to be a Democrat and not a Republican.

The hearing included responses from three persons: Acting Commissioner Steven Miller (now relieved of that position), former Administrator Doug Shulman (who left the agency last November), and Inspector J. Russell George (who wrote the Inspector General report). They testified about revelations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had applied additional scrutiny to groups applying for tax-exempt status that had the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names. 

The primary framing of the issue fits right into the main talking point of the Tea Party and Republicans, that the IRS is unfairly going after or "targeting" Tea Party groups for political purposes, that this is an outrage, and that this demonstrates the government as a whole is always doing this kind of thing so that people can no longer trust the government on anything. (See columns by Rich Lowry and David Brooks). Obama himself has accepted this framing rather than support professional workers in the IRS. He has assumed that terrible deeds have been done by these workers.

From watching the hearing, the fact is that Obama has failed to appoint strong, competent leaders for the IRS. Not once did either Steve Miller or Doug Shulman say the obvious, that the Tea Party groups were themselves "political" groups and the IRS has a responsibility not to allow such groups tax-exempt status. Steven Miller seemed the better of the two because he was trying to reject the over-all framing of the issue as the Republicans were assuming in their questions. He did not accept the idea that IRS agents were "targeting" Tea Party groups, for example. But he could not articulate things in a clear way, partly because the agency has not itself adequately developed guidelines for handling these matters. This is a failure in itself of the agency. But who is responsible for that failure? The previous commissioner, Doug Shulman, a Bush appointee who Obama kept in place, a man who does not share the policy preferences of the president and the party the president represents. It is Schulman who failed to guide the agency in dealing with these matters; he let the problem fester and took no action to deal with the whole issue of tax-exemption of political groups. (See this article by Lee Fang for specific groups violating the principle that political groups should not be tax exempt.)

This became clear in questioning of Shulman by Max Baucus toward the end of the hearing. Baucus asked Shulman if he was aware that after the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case there were many groups who began to involve themselves in political activity and abusing their so-called status as social welfare groups. Baucus didn't say this but he was referring to groups such as Karl Rove's Crossroads which raised millions of dollars from a few rich donors for attack ads against Democratic candidates in the last election, money Rove did not have to account for by revealing the donors since his was a "social welfare" organization.

Doug Shulman refused to answer the Baucus questions, pretending he was not supposed to influence the agency since he was a political appointee; he said these were questions which should be dealt with by the career civil servants of the IRS. I thought this incredible. In fact, what Shulman said is an outrage itself. But apparently Obama just hoped that appointing Shulman would satisfy the Republicans and they would not be able to criticize the IRS since Shulman was a Republican appointee. Will Obama ever learn? If you don't support your own party, if you back away from hard decisions, if you fail to create a context in which your own policy preferences are clear, you are going to get caught in very bad situation sooner or later.

So Obama now is looking weak and indecisive because he has been acting, well, weak and indecisive. Both Miller and Shulman themselves appeared weak and indecisive, refusing to answer questions, giving lame excuses, which just made the mad-dog Republicans more angry. Mad dogs have a habit of sensing and going after weakness.

The Democratic Senator from Washington, Maria Cantwell, was one of the Democrats who said the real issue is how a tax-exempt group should be defined, what actually makes for "political" activity and why should a social welfare tax-exempt group be allowed any political activity at all. That is the real question. The real scandal is that Tea Party and other conservative groups have been pushing the envelope by engaging in obvious political activity.

But this framing of the issue will probably not prevail. It's interesting to me that the so-called "liberal press" and many Democrats have taken the lead from Obama and articulated the issue in the conservative framing, that the IRS did something terribly wrong. Obama and Democrats have got to stop doing that. Otherwise there is no way to understand why Lois Lerner, the IRS official most directly in charge of this section of the agency is doing what she did today, taking the fifth amendment, refusing to answer questions, in order to protect her own constitutional rights. This makes it sound as if she is guilty. And that will keep the mad dogs going after the IRS even more.

I think Lois Lerner had to do what she did, otherwise she exposes herself and others in the IRS to a terrible and vicious witch hunt. The Tea Party Republicans will not be satisfied until they see real blood on the ground. Only Obama can do something about this; he has to lead by changing the whole framework within which he talks about this. Only he, finally, is able to set the context within which this debate can be resolved. I am afraid he will just back away again and let the Republicans win again, which is very, very bad for the nation.

It can be argued that money in politics is the most important pressing issue in the country today. The very future of democracy is at stake here. Obama can start doing the right thing by holding a press conference and announcing why he supports a faithful government worker like Lois Lerner.






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